I have a mantra in life. Ya wanna hear it? Okay here goes…
Eat your veggies
I can see how you might find this to be a bit superficial. I mean how can this be my life’s mantra; isn’t there a more profound philosophy to live by? But obviously, since I run a food blog, I think food is very important. And vegetables are definitely the most important food of all.
It’s possible that amidst all the confusion about nutrition, the importance of eating vegetables regularly is the only morsel of nutrition information that can be agreed upon. In fact, for all the attention people pay to counting macronutrients: how many carbs did I eat today? is that low fat? how much protein does that protein powder have? We don’t spend nearly enough time talking about the greatest source of nutrition there is: vegetables! They are nutrient powerhouses packed with vitamins and minerals and good ol’ energy. Good nutrition is the the foundation on which good health is built. Nourishing your body supports your immune system, helps your skin look vibrant, keeps your digestion healthy and helps you live longer. So a quick way to boost your health is to boost your veggie intake. And, in my opinion, it’s fun to increase the vegetables in your diet because there are so many different types of vegetables and so many different ways to prepare them. Now I get that not everyone is a vegetable devotee like me so I’m sharing some of my favourite hacks for boosting the vegetables on your plate:
- Choose quick-cooking, easy to chop veggies: Vegetable chopping can be time consuming so try to choose vegetables that are easy to wash and chop and will cook quick. You can also pre chop these a few days in advance so that your meals can come together quicker and with less mess. These are just a few of my faves:
- Leeks: they pack a lot of onion-y flavour but there’s no peeling and no tears when you chop them. Toss these into soup, stir fries, omelettes and use in the place of onions anytime.
- Baby Bok Choy: this adorable leafy green veggie is easy to clean–just rinse under water. It cooks quickly without wilting down into nothing so you know how much to buy. You can chop it and toss into stir-fries or you can even leave it whole and steam it or add to soups.
- Cabbage: this is the gift that keeps on giving. A whole head of cabbage is super cheap and once you chop it, you have vegetables for days. I like to chop cabbage and sauté with crumbled sausage for a quick meal. Napa cabbage is super easy to chop and is good both raw and stir fried. It makes a great base for a quick coleslaw or a veggie sauté.
- Choose Convenience Foods Smartly: By now you know that I’m not into eating processed, ready-to-eat food. But everyone needs some help speeding things up in the kitchen so choosing smart convenience foods will help your veggie intake. Here are a few suggestions:
- Canned tomatoes: Always have canned tomatoes on hand because they are a great flavour base and super affordable. Add them to soups or use them to make sauce. I love using whole canned tomatoes to make a quick romesco sauce for shrimp or eggs. I also really like the cans of cherry tomatoes which can be drained and used in omelettes. These cans of diced tomatoes with herbs are even quicker for getting chili or spaghetti sauce going.
- Pesto: I like to make my own pesto but when I don’t have time, I purchase some already made from a local Italian store. It’s a great way to add freshness all Winter long. Scoop some onto eggs, drizzle on soup or use as a topping for other vegetables like peppers, cauliflower or zucchini.
- Canned Artichokes: another super affordable flavour booster. These are great in a sandwich or cook them with chicken. You can also chop them and add them to salad or serve them as an appetizer with olives and cheese.
- Sauerkraut & kimchi: These veggie based probiotic-rich foods are available at your grocery store and they are great quick ways to add veggies to your meal. Add kimchi to soups, beside eggs or in an omelette. A couple tablespoons of sauerkraut with eggs or alongside pork is great!
- Roast Veggies in Advance: It helps to have vegetables on hand for the week to add at the last minute to your dishes. Try roasting a lot of veggies at the beginning of the week. Pull them out and use them as a side dish with your meat or in the morning with your eggs. To change the flavour profile, add some different herbs or top with hot sauce or pesto. Great vegetables for roasting are: cauliflower, butternut squash, brussels sprouts, broccoli, peppers, zucchini and sweet potatoes.
- Use Veggies as a Topping: Top your soups with freshly chopped herbs like cilantro, parsley or basil. Serve your eggs with a side of thinly sliced radishes or cucumber sticks. Try quickly sautéing thinly sliced carrots or small florets of broccoli or cauliflower with garlic and using them as a garnish to whatever you are eating. Just try to find a place for veggies on every plate or bowl of food you eat.
- Put it on a Vegetable: Vegetables make great vessels for things like salmon salad, eggs, sausage or shredded meat so try to add vegetables to all your dishes. Sliced cucumbers are great topped with salmon salad. A portobello mushroom makes a great vessel for sausage. Avocado is great served with shrimp salad or mushed together with some salmon. Put your meat over a salad and you will be sure to increase your vegetable intake.
- Turn it into a Noodle: Spiralizing veggies is a great way to replace pasta and eat more veggies. Here’s a spiralized sweet potato recipe. Try adding spiralized zucchini to soups and scrambles. Spiralized vegetables make the perfect nest to serve your meat or eggs on. Most vegetables can be spiralized in advance and kept in the fridge with a damp paper towel over them and used within a few days. That way you can grab a handful of veggie noodles and use them as needed. I totally love this website for more inspiration.
With these tips, you should be well on your way to having your fridge stocked with quick, delicious, easy vegetables. You can never have too many vegetables and you should aim to have at least 5 servings of vegetables a day but getting closer to 10 or more is even better. Here are a few more tips for helping you reach that goal:
- Eat veggies at every meal. It is never too early in the morning to eat a vegetable! Use my hacks above to make sure that you always have veggies on hand to add to your meals.
- Try to eat the whole rainbow of vegetables. Choose veggies that are different colours on the daily.
- Think of the meat as the garnish and not the other way around. Try to think of vegetables as the cornerstone of your meal and then add meat in small quantities to jazz them up. Bacon pairs well with Brussels sprouts (and just about anything); ground beef goes great with bell peppers; chicken is brightened up by fennel, carrots and celery.
For Vegetable Recipe Inspiration check out some of my favourite recipes and cookbooks: